Frugality and Imagination

I have three young children at home, which means that quite a lot of my time is spent on parenting activities. I prepare meals, buy groceries, fix up scrapes, clean messes, and do countless other things.

I’m also a proponent of what I like to call “free range parenting.” We have our children in a few scheduled activities, but I’m much happier to see our children go out in the backyard and make up their own games. My favorite thing to do with them on a rainy day is to get out a bunch of random things and just say, “What can we make with these?”

These types of wide open activities require imagination and lots of it. They have to come up with their own games and activities, often completely off the top of their head.

The interesting part is that most of the time, those ideas are quite good. They come up with some wonderful art projects and invent some rather creative games. In just the last month, they’ve created a brilliant little roll-and-move board game with some strategic twists (they call it “Pink Versus Green”), several impressive art projects, and a backyard game involving a hula hoop and a volleyball that’s really clever (and actually tricky to play).

Yes, sometimes those ideas are disastrously bad. We made a foamy mess that created a disaster in the kitchen not long ago, and even some good ideas end up being messy ideas. Still, even the disasters have a certain element of fun to them. We learn something along the way.

For them, there’s always something new to do, regardless of what happens to be on hand.

Why? One word. Imagination.

They’re constantly trying to think of new and interesting things to do with what they have on hand. It’s constant.

The thing is, that imaginative process itself is fun. Never mind the end result – a good portion of the fun is just thinking up what to do with what you’ve got.

That type of approach to life is a huge inspiration for frugality.

I am constantly looking at the resources we have and trying to think of ways to squeeze more value out of them. How can we use these things to obtain a little more? How can I turn this pile of random leftover food into a functional meal? What can we do today that doesn’t cost us much money?

It takes imagination to do these things.

If you don’t have that imagination, you’re going to just be drawn back into the routines you already have established, and if those routines are the ones that caused you to get into financial trouble, you’re really stuck. If you don’t have that imagination but are stubborn enough to try to keep your head above water, you’re going to think of frugality as misery.

Frugality is at its most successful when you can generate a ton of ideas and quickly toss most of them out, leaving behind the ones that are both frugal and fun.

When I see my children at play in the yard, I see them exercising their imagination. Not only is it going to be a good tool for them as they move into professional lives, it’s going to be a good tool for them in their daily lives as well.

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